When Rob Staley was a public school principal, he realized many of the troubled kids were falling through the cracks of the school system and society – so he decided to do something about it.
"We started our first school in a warehouse in Goshen, Ind., in December of 2003," Staley said.
Now, more than 10 years later, 15 campuses make up the Crossing Educational Center. The Crossing campus in Anderson serves as many as 70 students.
"Rob's personality is magnetic for me," said Anderson campus administrator Jeremy Bechtel. "He's a visionary, and he can articulate clearly what the vision, the mission and his passion for these students is."
For many of its students, the Crossing is a last hope to avoid jail. Each student has a different story about how they got to the Crossing and why they stick around.
"It's more hands-on; it's more one-on-one," said a student named Grant. "I never got that kind of treatment anywhere else I've gone."
The focus of the faith-based organization is not only on academics, but character, leadership and careers. Students can opt out of a required Bible-study course.
The Crossing's staff says a big reason for its success is the teacher-to-student ratio. In Anderson, the ratio is about eight students per teacher.
"They've sat down, helped me out with things that I just couldn't understand," Grant said. "And honestly that's what I like about the school the most."
Staley says it's the success stories that keep him and his board of directors pushing for more schools. They hope soon to open up five new locations.
"When you can walk away at the end of the day and see a kid smile and see a kid regain hope for the first time in his life, see a kid have great purpose, and have a career goal he never dreamed of – except for going to jail or dying early – there is nothing that can be more rewarding than that," Staley said.
This year, The Crossing schools will serve more than 1,000 students. Staley says his ultimate goal is to get those students the proper education and life skills and send them back to their communities so they can become a contributing member.
For all of his hard work and dedication, RTV6 has selected Staley as a recipient of the Jefferson Award.
"This is the most rewarding thing any human being can ever do, and it has nothing to do with money and salaries," Staley said. "It's all about what you're feeling like you're accomplishing and what you can give back to society. And there's nothing that can replace purpose in your life."
To nominate someone for a Jefferson Award, fill out our form describing their community impact here . A committee of community leaders in Central Indiana reviews nominees and selects one winner each month.